Do Flagler County teens deserve harsher punishment for racist remarks, threats against teacher?

Video: Calls for two teenagers accused of threatening a teacher to face harsher punishments

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. — A week after two teenagers threatened to kill their teacher, some are raising concerns that the students’ punishment was not harsh enough.

Deputies said last week that the two Palm Coast High School students, who are white, allegedly talked about killing their black teacher and made racist remarks about her on their school-issued computers.

Deputies said one of the students made the remarks because she was upset the teacher would not let her make up work.

Content Continues Below


The teacher, Kimberly Lee, has not been in school since the teens were arrested last week. She’s been teaching for 20 years.

“I miss my students, but unfortunately I don’t feel safe in my classroom,” Lee said Tuesday. She, county deputies, the NAACP and the ACLU all spoke out Thursday about the serious nature of the threats.

“When hate speech turns the corner and turns into criminal activity, we must draw the line right there,” said George Griffin, president of the Volusia and Flagler County chapter of the ACLU. “We cannot let this continue as if it was just a childhood prank.”

During part of the teens' conversation, deputies say one of the students wrote: "We gonna get away with murdur [sic] tonight." The other replied: "They [sic] gonna give you a medal for killing a [expletive]. Well its [sic] not really murder. Were [sic] doing the world an amazing thing."

One of the students then asked: “When are we killing her?” The other replied: “Tonight. I already know her address.”

“Her safety in our home, as well as our family’s safety in our home, we feel has been compromised,” said Travis Lee, the teacher’s husband and Assistant Principal at Rymfire Elementary School.

Another teacher later intercepted the conversations when the teens used the school’s Wi-Fi. Deputies said the students claimed it was a joke.

Days later, deputies arrested the students. The students face a misdemeanor charge of simple assault with the enhancement of a hate crime.

The NAACP said Tuesday that the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office didn’t take the initial threats seriously enough and asked deputies to seek more charges. The students were arrested two days after the threats were made.

"More serious felony charges were explored, but the facts of this case did not meet the required elements for a felony charge," said Chief Steve Brandt, chief of investigative services, in a statement last week.

The Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday they never sought “to bury the case,” and the investigation is ongoing. As part of the continuing investigation, sheriff’s detectives are requesting search warrants to determine if there is any further evidence on the computers seized during the initial stages of the investigation.

Deputies have not released the names of the students.